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The Post-Political Era

(Element5 Digital)
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You can go back to your normally scheduled programming.

Our six-year national nightmare might not be completely over, but you can safely quit your addiction to the news, you can rejuggle your priorities, you can go back to regular life.

Donald Trump will never be president again. Oh, he could possibly win the nomination, although I doubt it, but he could never win. You see America saw the movie and didn’t like it, didn’t like much of what Trump touched. And the slow drip of truth being revealed is leaving a stink on a man who might be indicted and even go to jail.

As for last week’s shenanigans in the House…

The headlines were enough. Insanity on parade. Nitwits. These are the people we have to be afraid of? Sure, they can get elected in their right wing red gerrymandered districts, but the rest of America wants nothing to do with them. Sure, nothing will get accomplished for two years, and they’ll investigate Hunter Biden and his laptop, but this isn’t going to rivet the public, they just can’t see how Trump’s kids and his son-in-law can skate completely, having all been involved in their father’s business, never mind administration, and Hunter’s activities were supervised by his father and therefore a penalty should be paid. As for trading on the fame and power of their father, can you say Ivanka and her clothing line?

Case closed. Oh, not for the Trumpers. It’s just that that constituency is nowhere near the majority, its power has been neutered. D.C. might be a source of headlines for the next two years, but you don’t have to focus on the stories, go in-depth beyond the headlines. Actually, you can laugh, because happy days are here again!

Not really. There’s a looming recession, and the economists can’t agree whether it’s coming or not. And rampant income inequality. And homelessness. But…

You can have a life. You don’t have to worry about politics coming up and dividing friends and family. It’s on the back burner. Democracy has been saved, at least for now. And it’s a great relief. (And if you live in an oppressive red state I can only give you Sam Kinison’s advice to the starving in Africa…MOVE!)

What does this mean?


Plenty.

Culture becomes king once again. And what will that culture be?

We’ve done mindless for nearly two decades, but now we’re older and wiser. It’s not like we learned nothing in the past six years. We learned if we’re somnambulant, not paying attention, rust never sleeps and our entire society can be corroded. Thinking people got a boost. The put-down of intellectualism did not triumph. As for Elon Musk and Twitter… It’s now even left the news, all we’ve got is the shell of a social media network and a declining Tesla. Not only did Musk bring down his car company, he put a dent in the image of techies everywhere. It’s kind of like lawyers after Watergate, they still have not recovered their status in society, they’re not hated as much as the cable company, but most people have no faith in lawyers, they look down upon them. Same deal hereafter with tech. Just because you’re rich and successful in one vertical…that does not mean you know anything about anything else.

However, the last six years have taught us that we all live in our own niche, our own vertical, and this will not change. Politics brought us together; it was the one thing we could all talk about. Now…

Be into your band, your streaming TV show, just don’t assume everybody’s heard it or seen it. Sure, there will be national news items now and again, like school shootings, but we’ve already seen them fall off the front page quickly. Everything top-line lasts shorter than ever before. If you want to appeal to everybody, you’re going to find that you don’t last. And if you’re appealing to the top, to the media, oftentimes your core abandons you, if there was a core at all to begin with.

What we’ve learned from TikTok is humanity sells. And everybody is playing. And if you want to win…

Check out the comedians. There’s a plethora on TikTok. They all can’t earn a living. Multiply by a zillion when it comes to music. The competition is stiffer than ever before. And if you’re not great, the surfer skips and the algorithm never shows your face again. Funny how we’ve heard about the power of the algorithm forever, but it’s really only triumphed now, with TikTok, the computer is in control of what we see, and ultimately our culture.

The movie business is dying. Theatre chains are going bankrupt. You see movies are like tech, what you did yesterday does not count. Oh, to a degree you can build on a franchise, but if you don’t come up with something new…

This is like the smartphone killing computer manufacturers. Do you even need a computer anymore? Many people survive without one, or use a tablet, which is just a giant smartphone.


As for the two-dimensional reality stars… That’s so last decade. Famous for nothing, even TikTok stars have a greater identity, and more creativity.

I’m not saying we’re returning to an age of gravitas, but that we are not just going back to 2016, or even 2020. We’ve seen that there are bigger things than money, like democracy. And if you let the blowhards talk long enough they’ll indict themselves, show their flaws.

ChatGPT? Very interesting, but it has nowhere near the impact and footprint of MySpace, never mind Facebook. We expect technological breakthroughs. College graduates have not only never known an era without the internet, they’ve never known an era without broadband. They don’t e-mail, they text. The ship has sailed, the world has been wired, everybody has been connected and if you’re worried about your privacy, you must live off the grid and never go online, but even then, your house will show up in Google Maps. The battle between the boomers and the younger generations is over. The younger generations won. Anti-internet screeds are laughable. Stop telling us about the deleterious effects of something so fulfilling. You can’t even ban football, never mind Coke (of either variety!), yet you think you can stop the internet train? Give me a break.

And the boomers have shifted into low gear anyway. They’ve retired, or soon will. They’re all about going to bed early and managing their investments, playing it safe, and we all know progress is made via risk.

Magazines? Like the movies, the pandemic put a dent in them too. So much was wiped away in the past two years. We are not going back to the mall. We are continuing to get our food delivered. Sure, we’re still in the middle of a wrenching transition, but we are absolutely not going back to the way it was.

So where does this leave you?

Well, if you’re working for the man, you’re going to take a haircut. Salaries are being kept flat, they are not keeping up with inflation, because if they do, inflation never dies. So, unless you’re rich, you’re going to have to budget, watch your pennies. Not that you’re not going to spend them.

That’s one thing about millennials, they love to have experiences, not only concerts, but travel. Millennials travel in a way their parents never did. Credit the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, marketed directly to them and incentivizing them to go. Millennials want those perks and they want to use them. So, if you’re marketing to them… Give them something, make it interesting.

Only the pubescent and those younger than them are ignorant. These are the online armies. Ignore them. They might be a mile deep, but they’re not a mile wide. The noise far exceeds the impact, like the Republican Congresspeople. There’s something there, but you can ignore it and not much will change.


Online hate, blowback? It’s here to stay. Grow a thicker skin. We’re all in it together, and the main reason people attack you is because they’re angry they’re not where you are, and if they can’t be, you’ve got to pay a price.

So, what’s new on the horizon?

Once again, culture.

Food and restaurants are as big as they ever were, America’s number one form of entertainment.

As for streaming content, despite what the financial pages say, there’s still going to be a ton of it, there has to be, otherwise people won’t subscribe. And it will be a smorgasbord, of not only lowbrow, but highbrow too. Because it’s not about getting everybody to watch the same thing, but delivering shows for individuals so they keep paying. Sure, there will be consolidation amongst the streamers, but it’s akin to sports trades, unless you’re really into inside baseball, you can ignore them.

As for music… The brand phenomenon will continue. And will for as long as we have billionaires, musicians want that money.

But there will be a new cadre, not playing to the back row, who realize the power of music is…to speak truth to power. Who won’t fight for every last dollar. Who will be in bed with their audience, not mobilizing them to fight anybody, but to be fulfilled in the symbiotic relationship.

This is the turning point. Don’t expect radical change tomorrow. But there will be an evolution, because most Americans are breathing a sigh of relief, they don’t have to be on guard 24/7 to save our nation. They’ve got bandwidth for other things now.

And don’t expect tech to fill the vacuum. That’s done. We had multiple decades of innovation, but we’re rarely wowed by new products, hardware or software, today. If anything, we expect them.

It’s just like music, which squandered its power after the classic rock and MTV eras.

Really, it’s the age of the individual, which is contrary to the millennial ethos, which is all about keeping your head down and being a member of the group. We’ve seen the power of one individual, especially with Trump. He’s a beacon that way. If you believe and you want something, you may be able to do it. Take a stand.

Breathe a sigh of relief.

Get back to your life.

 

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